Home Culture Culture Lists

25 People Shaping the Future in Tech, Science, Medicine, Activism and More

The inventors, entrepreneurs and disrupters who are changing (and maybe saving) the world one brilliant idea at a time

25 People Shaping the Future

Fifty years after Rolling Stone published its first issue in November 1967 – and one year after the cataclysmic election of Donald Trump – we’re still looking ahead with determined optimism at the next half-century. Anchored by a cover story on Elon Musk, the 2017 edition of our Future Issue puts the spotlight on 25 visionaries, revolutionaries, entrepreneurs and disrupters who are already changing (and maybe saving) the world in politics, economics, tech, science, agriculture, medicine and more – from an “all-natural architect” to the frontwoman for tomorrow’s Democratic Party to the startup king looking to eliminate healthcare bureaucracy. Wonder what the future looks like? This list gives us a good glimpse.

the future issue

Ethan Hill/Redux

Kate Orff: Remapping Cities for Climate Change

If our cities are going to survive rising seas, we’re
going to need someone as inventive as Kate Orff. On the south shore of  Staten Island, which was devastated by Hurricane Sandy’s
storm surge, her landscape-architecture and urban design firm, SCAPE, is
constructing a “living breakwater,” a series of barriers and wildlife
habitats to make the coast more resilient. A project in Lexington, Kentucky,
will turn the footprint of a polluted creek into an interactive path
spotlighting the region’s unique limestone. In Brooklyn’s notoriously polluted
Gowanus Canal, SCAPE aims to reintroduce native oysters, as an all-natural
filtration system. “It’s probably overwhelming for the next generation,
given the problems they’ve inherited,” Orff says. “I try to match
this anxiety with projects that enable people to feel like they’re
participating in a process to change their cities and communities.” JB

the future issue

Laura Segall/Redux

Sue Sisley: Hard Proof of the Benefits of Pot

When it comes to marijuana, the primary obstacle
preventing widespread medical breakthroughs is a lack of clinical trials.
Researchers are only allowed to use marijuana grown by a single farm at the
University of Mississippi – the pot is significantly less potent and sometimes
arrives at laboratories covered in mold. The approval process for new research
requires sign-off from two federal agencies, and often takes years. Enter Sue
Sisley, an Arizona physician who has made it her mission to establish the
benefits of cannabis while simultaneously drawing attention to the bureaucratic
stranglehold hindering research. Her advocacy work helped roll back a number of
onerous pot research requirements. This year, even as the DEA began accepting
applications for additional growers to compete with Mississippi, Sisley exposed
the “sub-optimal study drug” on a PBS NewsHour segment. “The
U.S. government has systematically impeded this work for years,” she says.
“We were forced to become activists. We really just wanted to do the
science.” ACL

the future issue

Ford Foundation

Darren Walker: Philanthropy Aimed at the Wealth Gap

The nation’s major philanthropies have long operated by noblesse oblige, seeking to blunt the sharp edges of capitalism by funding programs that sustain the poor. Under the leadership of Darren Walker, the Ford Foundation is taking a different tack. “In philanthropy we must move from a perspective of generosity to a perspective of justice,” Walker told a conference in Stockholm in October. “We need to look at the root causes of injustice, of poverty, of climate change.” Walker began his career redeveloping housing in Harlem, then spearheaded the Rockefeller Foundation’s rebuilding programs in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. Now leading the nation’s third-largest foundation, with a $12 billion endowment, he is pioneering a model of disruptive philanthropy, targeting the causes of inequality. In April, he announced a $1 billion investment in socially beneficial businesses, including builders of affordable housin